I had an urge to write this list. This Buzzfeed-ish, (mostly) non-running-related, presumptuous since I’m only two years into my thirties list. But as many writers know, if you feel a strong pull to get something out of your head and on paper, you do it or you go mad.
Here are 30 things I’ve discovered in my thirties so far. Maybe they only apply to me. Or maybe they’re golden nuggets of universal truth. Or they’re fodder for bumper stickers and self-published memoirs. And some are lessons I’m retelling in the words of others because they simply tell it better.
To me, they’re important.
1. By letting go of what you thought was going to happen in your life, you can enjoy what is actually happening. This is a quote from the recently passed actor Taylor Negron and it’s right on target. A personal example: the number of kids I thought I’d have and when I’d have them is playing out much differently than I always thought. Letting go of expectations imposed by a more naïve version of yourself and just flowing with how things play out can make you a much happier person.
2. The most attractive thing on anyone is healthy self-confidence. Someone tried to teach me this in my early twenties and the lesson didn’t really stick until ten years later. Insecurity subtracts from attractiveness, even if you look like Bradley Cooper. Also: thinking too much of yourself is unattractive.
3. They grow up in the blink of an eye – parents, that is. So often people tell you that kids grow up too fast and you should treasure each moment with them, and the very same holds true about parents. Suddenly they’re seniors and you’re trying hard not to think about an hourglass with sand slipping through. Spend as much time with them as possible, be generous with hugs, ask them to tell those stories you’ve heard a hundred times already. It will never be enough time together after they’re gone, so make the most of it.
5. Make an effort to keep in touch with friends near and far away. Family is the most important thing in life, and sometimes that includes people who aren’t blood relatives but those who The Universe/God/Life has ensured that you cross paths because you’re meant for each other.
6. You know what marriage is really all about? Forgiveness. Over and over and over again. Camille Braverman said this on Parenthood and it’s among the most realistic marriage advice I’ve ever heard.
8. …and neither is cluttering your life with “stuff.” Another awful lie our culture spoon-feeds us from a young age: you need to buy stuff to be happy. Screw stuff. Keep life simple, work hard, do things that make you happy and spend as much time with those you love as possible. That’s all you really need, and usually it doesn’t cost a dime.
9. Try not to be judge-y. Although it’s in our nature to be so, none of us will ever know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
10. Assume nothing. The world, and people, are full of surprises. Smart people know that they don’t know.
11. Taking care of your body really does matter. This is common knowledge. In your thirties, you start to feel why it matters, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
12. Also, accept your body and appreciate it as is. Some things won’t change (without plastic surgery). I’ll always be impossibly short and have birthing hips, a soft belly, a small-ish chest and a big-ish nose. This is okay with me. My body has carried another human around for 10 months, produced breast milk for said human for over a year, run countless miles and carried me reliably through life every single day for 32 years in spite of my own ridicule and mistreatment. It deserves some kudos.
13. Death will come for you. It takes this long for the inevitability of death to sink in, because you start to stare it in the face more often as family and friends pass on. Then you want to slap your 20-year-old self upside the head for thinking she’s invincible.
14. Nurture your God-given talents. Don’t deny your gifts.
15. Nurture your wannabe talents. Don’t deny your heart.
16. Friendliness will get you far. A lot can be said for a smile, a hello and genuine acknowledgement/consideration of others. What you put out there will come back to you, in the end. It’s kindness karma.
17. No one has things figured out. As time passes, you grow wiser and this statement becomes scarier.
18. As it pertains to running: there will always be someone faster and always someone slower. Everyone is on their own path and you only need to think about yours. In the race, you’re up against yourself.
20. P.S., don’t look at work email on vacations. Whatever is in your inbox can wait. The break your sanity needs cannot.
21. Home cooked meals are better. In most cases, they’re cheaper, healthier and made with love.
22. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Steve Jobs said this. In other words, go with your gut, even if it goes against what everyone in your life is telling you. If you ever find yourself in this painfully confusing struggle, I feel for you.
23. Roll with change…it’s probably one of the best qualities you can possess. There is so much we can’t control – just let go of what you can’t affect and focus on what you can.
24. Always be all in. “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around like rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” — a spot-on quote from Anne Morris.
25. Failure is good. It means we have tried for something, all in, unafraid. We have learned something. Fail again, fail better.
26. Let others be your mirror, especially your spouse. Take a note from those close to you on how you’re really coming off to others. It’s valuable information.
27. Be direct. I don’t believe in the language of passive aggressive. It needs to be sent to that place where languages go to die. Where Latin ended up, that’s where it needs to go. I think it only intends to hurt and confuse.
28. If you’re angry, shut up until you’ve calmed down. If you’re drunk, shut up until you’ve sobered. No explanation required.
29. Let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling without judgment. This is a hard one. It was advice I was given from a very dear friend during a difficult time and when I followed it I just felt liberated. Honor your feelings, don’t bury them because you don’t think they’re the right ones.
30. Your thirties aren’t actually old. Ten years ago my thirties were old.
But today, I’m just beginning.